Sonia, Act II
Can Sonia Sotomayor save major league players again, as she did in 1995? The newest Supreme Court judge may get the chance if Federal agents are allowed to take their case of seizing 104 positive urine tests from baseball’s union in 2003 to the high court. The Feds’ argument was rejected by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco this past week, meaning that the 97 players on the list whose names haven’t been leaked can breathe easierfor now. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court has always been known for its liberal leanings, while the Supreme Court is swung more to the right, more apt to side with corporate (vis-a-vie, MLB) interestswhich is why the Feds have a chance if they move forward. Sotomayor would likely side with the players, but she is not the sole voice this time.
On the Block?
A new book on multi-billion-dollar scammer Bernie Madoff says that New York Met owner Fred Wilpon lost $700 million in the mass swindle and, as a result, will likely have to sell the team. “It’s qualified by when,” said Too Good to Be True author Erin Arvedlund to Reuters, “It’s possible (Wilpon) would have to sell by next year.” The Mets categorically denied Arvedlund’s claim.
Mr. Kent Speaks
Former second baseman Jeff Kent was honored this past weekend in San Francisco with a plaque on the Giants’ Wall of Fame at AT&T Park. The gruff Kent, who spent six outstanding but, at times, stormy years in San Francisco, wasn’t afraid to speak his mind about his time as a Giant. He praised Giant fans for booing him while he was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, which showed to him that they had passion; claimed he and Barry Bonds got into it with each other “many times,” not just the one, visible incident in San Diego during the 2002 campaignbut overall, seemed to respect the isolated nature of Bonds which mirrored his own; and reiterated his disdain for steroid users, saying he was “incensed” at cheaters and “embarrassed” to have played in that era. Kent said that if elected to the Hall of Fameand many believe he’ll get therehe’ll go in as a Giant.
But I Could've Been Great
After those lost years, Parker revived his career with the Cincinnati Reds, most especially in 1978 when he achieved numbers that mirrored his 1978 MVP effort. Parker has only two years of eligibility remaining to be voted into Cooperstown, and lobbied for himself by saying his numbers are comparable to Jim Rice, elected this past year. Well, sort of. Rice had more productivity in less time and was more consistently dominant; if Parker doesn’t lapse into drugs in the early 1980s, he’s likely already in the Hall. All in all, you just can’t expect to be included based on what you could’ve been.
Speaking of the Hall of Fame, there was talk this week of whether Dave Parker should belong after appearing at a reunion for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 1979 World Series champion team. In his early years, Parker’s upside and lumbering frame evolved to the point that by the late 1970s he was clearly the NL’s best playerwinning the NL MVP in 1978 with a .334 average, 30 homers and 117 RBIs. A gradual drop-off became a steep decline as Parker was overwhelmed by drug abuse, and he became a prime witness in the infamous 1985 drug trial in which Pirate clubhouse caterer Curtis Strong was convicted of cocaine distribution.
Trophy Hunter of a Different Sort
It wasn’t exactly George Costanza dragging a World Series trophy from his car in the Yankee Stadium parking lot in an attempt to get fired by George Steinbrenner, but it was close. In Scranton, Pennsylvania, a fan at a minor league game between Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Syracuse, upset over a catering detail, stormed the administration offices of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees and, in his ensuing rage, grabbed and threw the 2008 Governors’ Cup (won by the Yankees) to the floor, damaging it. According to the Associated Press story, the man, Michael Cortezar, was arrested on charges that included vandalism and making terroristic threats. So watch it, all you keepers of baseball trophies past; there may be angry cells out there ready to strike at any time.
How Green Was My Reliever
Having spotted the Chicago White Sox to a big, early leadand their bullpen depletedthe Boston Red Sox went to extremes on Thursday night and sent in shortstop Nick Green to pitch the final two innings of the Red Sox’s 9-5 loss at Fenway Park. Green pitched just as well as the two relievers who proceeded him, and certainly better than starter Junichi Tazawa, who allowed all nine White Sox runs in just four innings of work. Green was wild by major league standards, walking three and throwing just 13 of 35 pitches for strikes, but allowed no hits and no runs in the longest performance on the mound by a Red Sox position player since 1944.
When Nolan Preaches...
Before the season started, Texas president and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryanworried over the mental state of Ranger pitching over the yearsput out an edict to his staff: Work out, pitch, pitch good, and pitch deep. Whether the pitchers have gone thrown Ryan’s recommended physical regimen remains to be seen, but the results to date in 2009 have certainly been promising. The Rangers enter this week with the AL’s second-best team ERA, a year after finishing last in the majors; starters are also averaging nearly six innings a start, compared to 5.37 in 2008a figure that also placed Texas dead last among other teams. The team’s ten shutouts are already more than any full season over the last decade, and the staff’s overall turnaround has been telling in the standings; the Rangers are on pace for their best record since 1999, the last year they made the postseason.
Stairs to Nowhere
Philadelphia pinch-hitter and rare starting outfielder Matt Stairs may be well remembered by Phillie fans for helping to ice the NLCS last year against the Los Angeles Dodgers, but love only gets you so far in the City of Brotherly Love if you haven’t done much lately. Stairs’ problem is worse: He’s done nothing lately. In fact, he hasn’t had a hit since July 11, a span of 27 at-bats.
This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
For the second straight week, Michael Young of the Texas Rangers earns the distinction for having the majors’ longest active hitting streak as his run reached 17 games as of Sunday. He had a single in each of his last five games to keep the streak alive, but is hitting .380 overall during the streak. Young has a good shot of collecting 200 hits for the seventh time in his career.
As we head into the final month of regular season play, here’s some interesting projections to note:
• Seven players will likely hit 40 or more home runs; last year, only two (Ryan Howard and Adam Dunn) managed to get that far.
• Albert Pujols, who’s never hit 50 homers in a season, is on pace to get there this year.
• Mark Reynolds will likely break the record he set last year for most strikeouts, with roughly 215. No other player is on pace for 200; Howard, who’s whiffed 199 times each of the past two seasons, is on pace for 198 this year.
• No pitcher is on pace for 20 wins, though with a hot September, Adam Wainwright (16 wins) and CC Sabathia (15) might reach the mark, as could five other pitchers currently with 14.
• Ichiro Suzuki, expected back in the lineup this coming week after dealing with calf issues, should collect 200 hits for his ninth straight yearwhich would set a major league record.
• Brian Roberts has a good shot at 60 doubles, making him the first major leaguer in 73 years to achieve that milestone.
• The Washington Nationals will need to play better than .500 to avoid their second straight 100-loss season.
• The New York Mets will have had every single one of their Opening Day roster players on the disabled list at some point this year. (Okay, we joke, but we’re not far from reality.)
• The Mets are in danger of hitting less than 100 home runs for the first time since 1992.
• The Tampa Bay Rays will become the first team to record 200 homers and 200 steals in the same year.
• The Nationals will have walked more batters than only one other team (the Mets) and struck out fewer than one (Pittsburgh).
Where Dying Pitchers Come Back to Life
John Smoltz has become the latest reclamation project to thrive under the tutelage of St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan, who was good enough to right even Jeff Weaver back in 2006. Since being picked up from Boston a few weeks ago, the 42-year old Smoltz has pitched twice for the Cardinalsallowing one run in 11 innings. With the Red Sox, Smoltz was 2-5 with a catastrophic 8.32 ERA. For folks who crave great pitching in St. Louis, they might want to enjoy these next few months; it’s reported that Duncan may be gone after this year, angry at local media (over the way they criticized his son, Chris Duncan, recently traded to Boston) and the Cardinal organization, which is said to be following its own lead on its pitching prospects independent of Duncan’s opinion.
Making the Score
The New York Yankees, enjoying life in the new Yankee Stadium as well as the top of the AL East standings, have six players with 20 or more home runs: Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Damon, Robinson Cano, Hideki Matsui and Nick Swisher. With over 32 games left to play, two other playersDerek Jeter and Jorge Posada, each with 17could join them and set a major league record for the most players on one team with at least 20. Three other teamsthe 1996 Baltimore Orioles, the 2000 Toronto Blue Jays and the 2005 Texas Rangershad seven players with at least 20.
Who Are These Guys?
This was your lineup for the Triple-A version of the injury-devastated New York Mets on Thursday at Florida: Pagan-Valdez-Murphy-Francoeur-Sullivan-Tatis-Santos-Hernandez-Redding. Every one of these players, except for pitcher Tim Redding, had two or more hits in the team’s 10-3 drubbing of the Marlins.
Keeping the Record Straight
With two wins in his last three starts, Boston starting pitcher Clay Buchholz no longer owns the distinction of having the fewest career wins for any major leaguer having thrown a no-hitter. Buchholz’s mastering of the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday gave him his eight career winone more than George Davis and Bud Smith, each of whom threw no-hitters 87 years apart as one of seven career victories.
Turning In For the Fall?
At the beginning of the year, the Tampa Bay Rays raised the flag to commemorate their 2008 AL pennant; this past week, they may have well have raised the white flag for surrender on the 2009 campaign. The Rays traded away Scott Kazmir, whose standing as the staff ace has been beaten up by injury, subpar performance and the rise of James Shields and David Price in the rotation. Money had something to do with his deal to Los Angeles of Anaheim; he is owed more than $20 million over the next two years. But the Rays’ slim chances of making a run at the postseason may have been lessened by his loss.
Wounded of the Week
No team has suffered physical pain and suffering in recent times as have this year’s New York Mets, who added three more playersall pitchersto the disabled list this week: Reliever J.J. Putz, starter Oliver Perez and staff ace Johan Santana, who’s done for the season to have arthroscopic surgery on his elbow.
Also hitting the shelf this past week is Colorado rookie Dexter Fowler (knee), Texas outfielder Andruw Jones (hamstring), Washington outfielder Nyler Morgan (broken hand, out for the season), Minnesota third baseman Joe Crede (back), San Francisco second baseman Freddy Sanchez (shoulder) and Seattle slugger Russell Branyan (back).
He Wrote What?
“I’m too ugly to get laidneed $$$ for a hooker.” Sign held up by a panhandler outside the gates of San Francisco’s AT&T Park after the Giants’ 2-0 win over Colorado on Friday.
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.